Narco-Villain “El Chapo’s” Arrest Packaged for Media Consumption
Former DEA Supervisor Contends Guzman’s Capture Was An “Arranged” Event
The recent capture of the notorious Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, longtime leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa narco-trafficking organization, was not what it appeared to be, according to a former DEA supervisory agent who still has a deep network of contacts in Mexico.
Guzman’s takedown, despite the media script portraying it as a daring predawn raid, was, in fact, an “arranged thing,” claims the retired DEA agent, Hector Berrellez, who led the investigation into the 1985 torture and murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena. That cross-border investigation ran for several years and eventually led to the capture and conviction in Mexico of Rafael Caro Quintero, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo — considered the leaders of Mexico’s then-dominate drug organization, The Guadalajara Cartel.
“Chapo [Guzman] was protected by Mexican federal agents and military, by the Mexican government,” Berrellez told Narco News. “He was making [Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto look bad, and so the government decided to withdraw his security detail. Chapo was told he could either surrender, or he would be killed.”
Berrellez, who retired from the DEA in 1996, stresses that he is not speaking on behalf of the US government, but rather as an individual who has decades of law enforcement experience, including serving as DEA’s lead investigator in Mexico.
“This information comes from my sources, that I am still in contact with,” Berrellez adds. “I developed a large informant network in Mexico, including sources in the Mexican Attorney General’s office, Mexican generals and others. These people are still in contact with me.”
Berrellez says his version of what happened is further evidenced by the fact that Guzman was apprehended early Saturday morning, Feb. 22, in an unremarkable condominium tower in the Pacific resort town of Mazatlan, Mexico, without a shot being fired and no security detail present to offer a fight.
“This guy [Guzman] was bigger than Pablo Escobar [the infamous Colombian narco-trafficker whom law enforcers killed in 1993 in a rooftop shootout in Medellin],” Berrellez says. “He [Guzman] ran around with a several-hundred man security detail that included Mexican military and federal agents, yet, in the end, he is arrested like a rat in a hole. My sources are telling me it was an arranged thing.”
As remarkable as Berrellez claims may sound to some, there is evidence indicating that law enforcement authorities have known for years where to find Guzman, who has led the Sinaloa organization since at least 2001, when he "escaped" from prison. Still, law enforcers mysteriously failed to capture him — until last week.
Among the reasons for Guzman’s long run from the law, several law enforcers and intelligence sources told Narco News, was not due to the fact that he could not be found, but rather because Guzman’s security team was formidable and any move against him would have led to a bloodbath — not an attractive political or law-enforcement option.
An email penned by the head of the Texas-based private intelligence firm Strafor, obtained and made public in 2012 by WikiLeaks, echoes that analysis:
Chapo commands the support of a large network of informers and has security circles of up to 300 men that make launching capture operations difficult.
Once the security-detail obstacle was removed, Guzman became a sitting duck. One law enforcer with experience working in Latin America put it this way:
It seems Chapo put his life in the hands of the people he paid off [the Mexican government, if Berrellez is right, and the military and federal cops attached to his security detail]. But whenever the government wants to get you, they can get you. Look at Escobar, Fonseca, Gallardo, Quintero. They were all considered untouchable. Then, one day, it was in the interest of the government to get them.
Retired DEA agent Phil Jordan, who once led DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center, told Narco News that he was surprised that Guzman was captured under a PRI government. (President Peña Nieto is part of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI in its Spanish initials.)
“Chapo contributed a lot of money to the PRI,” Jordan says. “The PRI historically has been an ally of the cartels, and Chapo Guzman has contributed millions to their campaigns. All of that is documented [in intelligence reports] I have seen.”
Remarks made by retired Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Phil Jordan and those of other retired DEA agents do not reflect the views of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera was a significant achievement for Mexico and a major step forward in our shared fight against transnational organized crime, violence, and drug trafficking. …
The fact that DEA felt compelled to issue such a statement indicates that Jordan’s comments about the PRI’s complicity with narco-trafficking organizations must have hit a nerve in Washington, one DEA source told Narco News. Jordan’s allegations, if on the mark, also support Berrellez’ contention — and those of his sources — that Guzman was receiving protection from the Mexican government — including under the administration of President Peña Nieto. If we accept that, the question then becomes: Why was that support withdrawn?
Berrellez says his sources indicated to him that Guzman had become more of a liability than an asset for the Mexican government. The reform agenda being pursued by the Peña Nieto regime hinges, in part, on creating a perception that Mexico is winning the drug war and reducing the violence, so that it appears a safer bet for the billions of dollars in foreign investment (particularly in the oil-and-gas and tourism sectors) that Mexico is seeking to attract.
A free Guzman was deemed a bigger threat to that agenda than a defanged Guzman, and his capture, conversely, would provide the Peña Nieto administration with a big image boost, and so Guzman had to go.
“It was political,” Berrellez says.
And it’s clear the arrest of Guzman did give Peña Nieto’s administration a major image bounce on the global stage — given the avalanche of positive press that followed "El Chapo's" capture. And it comes at a time when Peña Nieto is seeking to promote reforms that position Mexico as a land of enchantment for speculators, investors and tourists.
A 14-page advertorial section that ran in TIME magazine in late December of last year, about two months prior to Guzman’s capture — which was paid for, in part, by the Mexican government — spells out the Peña Nieto plan for “progress.”
Osorio Chong says the series of market reforms means 2014 is the ideal time to invest in Mexico and that foreign investors are welcome to bring their money, knowledge and skills to any of the nation’s industrial, commercial and manufacturing sectors. [Miguel Angel Osorio Chong is Peña Nieto’s Interior Minister, the top post in his administration.]
… A former energy minister, Luis Téllez-Kuenzler, who is now president of one of the country’s most important financial institutions, the Mexican Stock Exchange, adds:
“Mexico is very investor-friendly. Anyone wishing to invest from any other country just needs to go to their bank or stock brokerage house and invest. It’s transparent, efficient and very easy to do.”
Berrellez is not the lone veteran law enforcer who does not buy into the conventional-media script manufactured for Guzman’s capture. Another former DEA agent, Mike Levine, a veteran of deep undercover missions, such as Operation Trifecta — which played out in Mexico in the late 1980s when the PRI Party also was in power in Mexico — describes the arrest of Sinaloa organization top-capo Guzman as “yet another drug war rip-off.”
Levine relayed to Narco News the following via email:
Here’s why it [Guzman’s arrest] perpetuates the drug-war shill game run by media: Two decades ago, I was part of an international undercover operation [called] “Operation Trifecta.”
On hidden video, our undercover “Mafia” [a ruse organization set up to sting Mexican narco-traffickers and corrupt government officials] was able to arrange a 15-ton cocaine deal directly with the Mexican military and representatives of the Mexican government, at least one of whom was tied directly to the incoming president of Mexico. As I detailed in NY Times Best Seller “Deep Cover,” CIA, State and the Department of Justice immediately moved to destroy “Operation Trifecta.” As is revealed in the book, the then-Attorney General of the United States actually blew the cover of our undercover team.
Due to a couple of hard-headed DEA and Customs agents, they were not entirely successful. Point is, what gave Chapo Guzman and ALL like him the power to become billionaire drug kingpins was the covert involvement of his own government in maintaining the flow of money and drugs through Mexico into the US.
… Understand that NOTHING has changed since this was shown and that while the covert involvement and support of the drug economy by the Mexican government — and those elements of the US government lending covert support to same — continues, there will be a continued flow of CHAPO GUZMANS ….
This link to a Youtube [video] actually captures the undercover deal [that was carried out as part of Operation Trifecta]. The video was sent by overnight courier to the Attorney General of the US, who then blew our cover by warning the AG of Mexico of the impending arrests.…